Any excuse to go to Italy and I am in there like swimwear. When the Genoan Tourist Board invited me on a two day trip to Genoa (or Genova as the Italians call it) I couldn’t wait to step on that plane, albeit a Ryanair one, and get exploring.
Genoa is the capital of Liguria, a region bordering the north of better known Tuscany. I have been to Liguria before, it is home to the beautiful Cinque Terre villages, but never to Genoa itself.
Even though this is the sixth largest city in Italy, it doesn’t miss out any of the charms of the smaller cities.
Great for a weekend getaway, Genoa is around a 2-hour flight from London Stansted Airport, and at £55 it won’t set you back too much either. Historically it has always been one of the most important port cities in the Mediterranean and remains to be the busiest port in Italy. Part of the old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, no surprise when you see the impressive architecture and historical landmarks.
We began our stay with a walk around the old market, buying produce for a cooking class later in the evening. At the class, we learnt how to make our own pesto, very relevant seeing as this is the city that invented it! Sadly my pesto did not win the taste test, but that’s okay because it still tasted pretty good if I may say so myself…
Over the weekend the city really lights up in the evenings. I’m not talking about drunken louts shouting their way through the streets but couples, friends and families enjoying dinner and drinks al fresco in one of Genoa’s many squares, or should I say piazzas. The Italians eat later than us Brits, however even at 9pm on an October evening we could dine outside without being cold.
The next morning we made our way through the narrow streets and up to one of the city’s best viewpoints. It’s only from above you can appreciate the scale of the city, overlooking magnificent church spires and onto the cruise ships docked in this world-famous port.
After this we enjoyed cappuccinos (who am I kidding, everyone enjoyed one except me who drank a pot of tea instead) on Piazza San Lorenzo, to the sound of a busker playing his accordion. As always, Italy is in my opinion up there with Paris as one of the best places in the world to people watch!
Next on the itinerary was a rickshaw tour with TreeCycle through the old town, a great way to cover a lot of ground and fast. The tour guides pedal their way through charming streets whilst offering a brief history of each location. This was also a great way for us to get our bearings and see how the maze of lanes connect together, often leading onto beautiful squares and shopping plazas.
Where to next? Boccadasse! I can’t believe I had never heard of this place, an Instagrammer’s dream, Boccadasse is a seaside suburb of Genoa, boasting a cluster of colourful houses on a rocky outcrop complete with ample restaurants and souvenir shops. We were blessed with the weather so watched visitors splash around in the sea before heading to a seafood restaurant for lunch. Sadly I don’t eat anything that once lived in the sea (it just freaks me out!) but I could appreciate the enjoyment on my fellow traveller’s faces as they gobbled down muscles. Lucky for me they whipped me up a delicious plate of pesto gnocchi.
How did we get to Boccadasse? We took a trip with Slow Vintage Tours in vintage Fiat 500s! These little toy cars (that aren’t actually toy cars) are a great way to get around the small streets of the city, I was in a convertible so we could also soak up the sun on our journey to the sea too!
My conclusion? Well, I could tell you a lot more about this city… it is a great place to base yourself especially if you want to visit the stunning towns along the Ligurian coastline. Camogli is just 30 minutes by train from the city centre, and Portofino can also be reached in under an hour, for those wanting to venture a little further you can get a train to Monterosso, the gateway to the world-famous Cinque Terre villages. Alternatively, there is enough to see in the city to keep you busy for a full weekend!